After a series of police chiefs with short terms of service, Martin Bruton arrived to find the city being overrun with lawlessness and vice, and, over the next 30 years as the head of Regina’s burgeoning police force, he cracked down on crime.
Known amongst fellow officers as a “fierce” but “good” chief, Bruton spearheaded many new policing methods. Faced with the shortage of men due to World War I, he fought to increase the number of officers and added more police vehicles to allow for larger patrol areas than could traditionally be handled by officers on foot. Bruton was responsible for moving the force into a larger, dedicated police station which was a significant step up from the basement office where he began his tenure. He also implemented innovative changes, including creating the Vice team, instituting pensions for retirees, improving fingerprint tracking, and installing radios in police cruisers.
Bruton’s 30 year career as police chief saw many challenges, however, there were three major events that are remembered today. The first, after nearly twenty years as chief, was the Regina Riot of July 1, 1935. Only four years later, Bruton was put to the test again when Regina experienced a (temporary) influx of 50,000 people who arrived to see King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth. Then, in 1940, Regina hosted the world premiere of the movie North West Mounted Police. 40,000 people visited Regina hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite film stars.
And yet, for all his obvious leadership qualities and successes as a police chief, Bruton almost never entered law enforcement. Born just outside Dublin, Ireland on September 2, 1877, Bruton had a youthful dream of becoming a tenor. After this dream was crushed by his failure to secure a position as a chorister in the local church, Bruton decided to abandon his shopkeeper apprenticeship and joined the Dublin Metropolitan Mounted Police. In 1905 he set sail for North America and landed a position with the Winnipeg force. He also briefly served as Edmonton’s deputy chief before accepting his career-defining role as Regina’s Chief of Police.
(credit: Keepers of the Law, Regina and District Old Time’s Association, 2005.)